Its showing could swing public opinion. At the same time, all conceded that readers and viewers could not understand the significance of this killing without seeing it in the context of what this beleaguered infantry platoon had encountered in that village for several weeks.
They had been under continuous attack. There had been numerous attempts to infiltrate their lines. Persons dressed as civilians had hurled explosive charges, causing casualties. Every rifleman was exhausted and jumpy. Although the bundle carried by the dead woman proved to contain only her clothes, a weary rifleman could well have concluded that she was attempting to get close enough to hurl an explosive charge into the group of soldiers waiting to board the helicopter.
None of this was picked up by the television camera, whose narrow field of vision recorded only the shooting of an old woman, running alone across a vacant field. Television news could not provide perspective. It could only report an incident. Most of the media executives said they would carry the story. Even in matters where context is a prerequisite to understanding, the news media tend to compete in terms of immediacy rather than accuracy. As a result, when the media report historical facts, they may provide information, but they rarely provide illumination.
Hinckley described another kind of lack of context in his talk at October conference two years ago. His example applies to all writings on Church history and biography:. They find readers of their works who seem to delight in picking up these tidbits, and in chewing them over and relishing them. In so doing they are savoring a pickle, rather than eating a delicious and satisfying dinner of several courses.
They doubtless made mistakes. But the mistakes were minor, when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight the mistakes and gloss over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a blemish on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the blemish is emphasized unduly in relation to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity. I welcome it. But I wish all of my facts in their proper context, with emphasis on those elements which explain the great growth and power of this organization.
In short, readers need to be sensitive to the reality that historical and biographical facts can only contribute to understanding when they are communicated in context. Satan is the great deceiver, the father of lies see John This is not because Satan tells only lies. His most effective lies are half-truths or lies accompanied by the truth. A lie is most effective when it can travel incognito in good company or when it can be so intermarried with the truth that we cannot determine its lineage.
Yet we know that each statement, by itself, conveys a lie. This example shows how easily a deceiver can discredit an individual by mingling events from different periods in his life. None of us is immune from that kind of deception. Youthful folly and the mistakes of inexperience can easily be used to discredit a person and detract from later accomplishments. In this manner, the deceiver can attempt to undercut the repentance and forgiveness made possible by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In this manner, the adversary can attempt to discredit the principle of eternal progress that is central to the gospel plan. Satan can even use truth to promote his purposes. Truth can be used unrighteously. Facts, severed from their context, can convey an erroneous impression. Persons who make true statements out of an evil motive, such as those who seek to injure another, use the truth unrighteously.
Persons who reveal truths that they hold under obligations of confidentiality, such as medical doctors, or lawyers, or bishops who have heard confessions, are guilty of wrongdoing. And a person who learns some embarrassing fact and threatens to reveal it unless he is paid off commits a crime we call blackmail, even if the threatened disclosure is true. The fact that something is true is not always a justification for communicating it. While instructing the Corinthian Saints not to partake of meat offered in sacrifice to idols, the Apostle Paul explained,.
By the same token, some things that are true are not edifying or appropriate to communicate. Readers of history and biography should ponder that moral reality as part of their effort to understand the significance of what they read. Any contest between deception and truth pits Satan against the Holy Ghost.
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As members of the Church, we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we will use our spiritual powers of discernment, we will not be misled by the lies and half-truths Satan will circulate in his attempts to deceive us and to thwart the work of God. Readers and viewers also need to be sensitive to the bias of the writer or the publisher. That bias may be religious or irreligious, believing, skeptical, or hostile. Cracroft describes one aspect of bias with particular reference to Church member historians:. The bias of a partially committed Latter-day Saint author can be particularly misleading to Latter-day Saint readers, especially if the author bills himself as Latter-day Saint.
Yet, a spiritually sensitive Latter-day Saint can discern such bias. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained this in an letter to W. Phelps in Missouri:. Reporting the event as having happened. Two Latter-day Saint historians wrote this account:. They seemed to be standing above him in the air, the brightness of their presence defying all description. Hear Him! In his introduction, another Latter-day Saint historian stated that he would take this approach:.
My method has been to relate events as the participants themselves experienced them, using their own words where possible. Insofar as the revelations were a reality to them, I have treated them as real in this narrative. Stating that the person who reported the event believed that it happened. Two other Latter-day Saint historians treated the First Vision in this manner:. There has been no appropriate middle ground, as in the case of, say, Gandhi or Luther, where all parties could agree that an experience was valuable and an evidence of personal genius even if not a literal divine manifestation.
The tools of secular scholarship are crude and inadequate instruments for measuring mystical theophanies. Knopf, ], p. Relating the event but implying that it probably did not happen. Another historian seems to have taken this approach. Note his use of the word story:. Then the other personage told Joseph that he should join none of the churches, for all were wrong. That was the story the boy told his friends and family.
Members of his family listened and believed. The neighbors scoffed and branded Joseph a falsifier, a visionary, even a victim of Satan. But he would not deny his story or change it. Bias can also be exercised in decisions on what news stories to publish and what to omit. This kind of bias is difficult to detect, but it can be discerned over a period of time. For example, it is striking that we read so many stories in the media about the discovery of letters or historical facts that supposedly contradict or discredit early leaders of the Church but no news accounts of letters that support those leaders.
Have you ever seen an article in a national news magazine about someone who has joined the Church or been strengthened in his or her faith by some publication or spiritual experience? Or have you ever seen a national news magazine report a disclosure-scientific or otherwise-that has strengthened faith in the Church? There are such disclosures. Box , University Station, Provo, Utah , and you will find scores of articles published in the last decade by respected scholars in many different fields that support the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and strengthen faith in the restored Church.
Balance is telling both sides. This is not the mission of official Church literature or avowedly anti-Mormon literature.
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Neither has any responsibility to present both sides. But when supposedly objective news media or periodicals run a feature or an article on the Church or its doctrines, it ought to be balanced. So should a book-length history or biography. Readers of supposedly objective authors and publishers have a right to expect balance in writing about the Church or its doctrines.
Some such writing is balanced, but much is not. In this arena, readers should beware of writings that imply balance but do not deliver it.
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A good example of balanced treatment of a Latter-day Saint historical issue occurs in a book review in a recent issue of Chronicles of Culture, published by the Rockford Institute, on whose board I serve. In reviewing four recent books on the origins of Mormonism-two by Mormons, Arrington and Bushman, and two by non-Mormons, Shipps and Taves1-the author identifies his potential bias by revealing that he is Latter-day Saint see p.
Then he writes with what I believe to be admirable balance. These passages give the flavor:. It is no help that his status-prophet or fraud-depends upon the authenticity of several events in which very few shared directly; three others testified that they had seen Moroni and the plates; eight men swore they had seen the plates.
President Packer Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary
Bushman makes the point that since the 18th century most Christian denominations have rejected the possibility of supernatural events not recorded in the Bible. Mormons offend fundamentalists and agnostics alike by violating this Enlightenment-Christian synthesis with their talk of angels, healings, prophecy, and revelation in our time.
Skeptics continue to see adherents as the dupes of both first-century and 19th-century impostures; many traditional Christians suspect heresy and worse; while Latter-day Saints testify that they follow prophets of God and the Holy Spirit. Short of the Judgment, public agreement seems possible only on the undeniable proposition that Mormons are set against the spirit of the age. Balance needs to be guided by relevance, especially in the narrow confines of a newscast or a newspaper article. But military triumphs are not properly balanced by negatives irrelevant to military prowess, such as the fact that as a youth the subject was arrested for shoplifting.
Balance for the sake of complete understanding is justifiable; balance for the sake of matching positives with negatives is not. That kind of news reporting is too common. For example, last month a television news feature on the thirtieth anniversary of Disneyland gave that institution some well-deserved praise and then concluded with what seemed to me to be irrelevant negatives.
I have never had so much fun and gained so much understanding of the Doctrine and Covenants. Despite many reads and study materials, the Doctrine and Covenants always seemed so dry and hard to relate to overall. This book places you easily into the background of the section, gives you facts about the revelation and then has a trivia type question on the section. It's fascinating, insightful and educational. He brings in additional details, such as journal entries, which expand my understanding, but only the best ones, it seems. And it's truly and easy read LOVE it!!
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